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Overseas Contingency Operations

Definition: OCO funding is money set aside in the federal budget for expenses connected to overseas operations such as: crisis response, infrastructure and coalition support for operations in Iraq/Afghanistan, humanitarian assistance in the Middle East and North Africa, and embassy security among other needs abroad. These funds are not subject to limits on discretionary spending.

History: Following the terror attacks of 2001, the Bush Administration requested Congress provide specific funds to pursue the “Global War on Terror.” Beginning in 2009 the Obama Administration changed from using the “Global War on Terror” terminology to instead employing the nomenclature of “Overseas Contingency Operations” and the funds to support the effort became known as OCO.

According to the Congressional Research Service Report report dated September 6, 2019: Congress appropriated $77 billion for OCO in FY 2019, amounting to 5.6% of all discretionary appropriations. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress has appropriated $2 trillion in discretionary budget authority designated as emergency requirements or for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism (OCO/GWOT) in support of the broad U.S. government response to the 9/11 attacks and for other related international affairs activities. This figure amounts to 9.5% of total discretionary spending during this period.